No English garden is complete without its bees, and Kew is no exception!
Bees in the Wildflower area
Did you know?
- 32% of all British bee species are listed as threatened in the UK Insect Red Data Book.
- Kew honey is very popular with staff at the Gardens (there is not enough to sell to the public). In 2003, as part of the Go Wild! Project, staff sowed 0.4 hectares of corn using traditional hand-scattering. The crop grew free from pesticides and weedkillers and was then harvested by scythe and hand-milled. The flour made one loaf of bread, which staff ate spread with the Gardens’ honey. Tony Kirkham, head of the Arboretum at Kew estimated the loaf cost £4,000 to produce but was 'worth every penny'.
About Kew's bee hives
The home of Kew's bees has moved from its previous location behind Kew Palace. Although this area was full of flowers popular with the bees, the site was a bit exposed to the elements, so we decided to try a new site - the Wildflower Area near Main Gate. This area was enhanced as part of Kew's 250th anniversary celebrations, with plantings of British native orchids and Salvia verbenaca, a sage native to the Thames Valley. These plants, along with wildflowers already in the area, will provide ample food for the bees.
Bees will travel up to six miles to forage for food, so can choose from a vast menu at Kew! The bees from our colonies have been seen drinking from the water fountain in the Secluded Garden on hot summer days. The new hives are also south-facing and well sheltered from cold winds.
The two modern hives look quite different from each other, but are in fact the same structure; one has a white outer casing. The basic-looking one is called a National hive and the white one a WBC hive, named after its designer William Broughton Carr. These hives grow taller as more 'supers' (extra layers) are added, as the honeycomb is formed inside them by the bees and filled with honey. The two new colonies of bees had queens flown in from New Zealand; these bees are quite docile (important in a Garden that welcomes a million visitors a year) and a paler colour (almost yellow) than the dark native British honey bee.
Kew staff check the bees in the hives every nine days and remove honey in August. This is taken on frames from the top of the hive, leaving the bee colony living in the bottom layer.
Bees make an important contribution to gardens and agriculture, pollinating flowers and in the process helping them produce seed. Scientists believe that bees provide £200 million worth of pollination services to British agriculture every year. However, honeybee populations have been declining for the past 20 years. Habitat change and a disease caused by the varroa mite have both taken their toll.
Things to look out for
In 2009, Jordans sponsored a new educational bee habitat in the Gardens, close to the Main Gate. This is part of its 'Big Buzz' campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the need for more bee-friendly habitats. Everyone can do their bit by planting species that bees favour. Lime trees, maples, blackberries, lavender, clover, rosemary and mint all offer a good source of nectar for bees.
Come and visit Kew's bees - can you find the answers to the following questions?
- How far can a bee travel from its hive when foraging?
- How many flowers can it visit in one trip?
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
- english garden
- for kids
- english heritage
- around the world
- for friends
- gifts that help
- the UK
- ground breaking
- brand new
- for plant lovers
- special interest
- at risk
- Kew at home
- high up
- garden plants
CROCUSES KEW GDNS
Ring little bells
bymattpringle "treacle mine photography"
Last day of the Orchid festival
Dozens of green shoots
Kew - March 2013-8139.jpg
Kew - March 2013-8131.jpg
Kew - March 2013-8108.jpg
Kew - March 2013-8121.jpg
We invite photographers to capture the sights at Kew and Wakehurst. These images are a selection of images submitted by photographers from around the world. We hope you enjoy them. You can see more on Flickr.